Xfinity vs Comcast, No Reputational Escape?

Earlier this month (February  2010),  Comcast made the announcement of shifting over several products to a new brand: Xfinity. The downside to the brand revamp appears to be a spiral effect of news channel, industry critics, and industry peers passing along a series of criticisms trying to rebrand reputation.

Unfortunately it isn’t going so well for Xfinity. Starting with Reuters article “Comcast Seeks Reputation Change with Xfinity brand“, critic after critic is asking big questions about the rebrand effort.  In essence, the brand was not what was the target of the change (its reputation was.)

This is a digital issue we have covered before (Supermedia, Idearc, Verizon, and GTE) , as companies continue to re-brand business units in an attempt to fix areas of concern in online reputation and real world business issues.

A core problem of these rebrand efforts is the digital portion, where conversations connect old brands to new brands, along with some related problems on the side of search engine results.

An example of this can be seen in the “Xfinity Buzz” (image left), where the new brand has a sentiment value of 3:1 – meaning that every 3 positive mentions has 1 negative. For a “new” brand, having negative mentions about the brand is only caused by the relationship established with the old brand in the consumer mindshare.

A second example can be seen in the Google auto-complete search function, where Google directs your search to like-minded search phrases before you have the chance to click submit. When searching for “Xfinity”, the second result provided is “xfinity comcast” (disabling the ability to separate the two brands online.)

A third example resides on the contaminated results of Google, where the lack of strategy in digital brand management opened an invitation for negative press coverage to continually drain on potential positive spin, while degrading the overall value of the new brand.

A screenshot of Google’s search results for “Xfinity” show that roughly fifty percent of the results are negative (highlighted in red.) Included in the top Xfinity’s top Google Results are some pretty damaging headlines, including Time Magazines articleComcast to Xfinity: does name change conjure porn?” that blasts Comcast with brand expert statements such as:

“It’s a complete and total waste of time and resources,” says Rob Frankel, who has consulted for companies like Disney, Burger King and Sony. “Nobody has a clue as to why they did this or what the name means. If you are going to rebrand, it should communicate a strategy. Now you’ll just say, ‘The old Comcast guys f_____ up my cable.’ “

Other results on the first page come from high-traffic news sites including Endgadget, The Baltimore Sun, Gizmodo, PC Magazine, and the Seattle Times.

This information all leads back to an introductory statement made by Comcast CEO Brian Roberts “the company will rebrand its cable products under the banner “Xfinity” in an effort to reinvent its relationship with customers …”

As a high-tech, digital provider servicing customer who are net-enabled…. the lack of presence planning within the digital footprint of the new brand simply left the door open for a high percentage of the rebranding dollars to be lost within the digital marketplace. This can be seen in the timeline display (click image below to enlarge), where the first real sighting of the rebrand occurred in early December and was followed by a month and a-half of silence from Comcast.

The end result of this mistake in digital rebranding will have untold long-term ramifications:

  • continual customer service issues
  • reduction in sales conversion
  • potential stock impacts
  • increase to digital marketing costs
  • long-term restoration project for an entirely new brand.

What do you think Comcast could have done with Xfinity to have avoided this wrong turn?

Join the conversation on Twitter using hashtags #comcast and #xfinity